Humor, like all art, is a balancing act. The amateur comedian who tries too hard to be politically incorrect and funny ends up being neither. They usually open their set with, “Hi, I’m the most offensive comedian, I’m warning you!” Dumb idea. Why would you let your audience in on the joke? The master comedian, like all great artists, hides behind their art. They don’t point to themselves and their deranged, offensive, shocking personalities. Could you imagine if every Tarantino movie opened with a title card which stated, “Hi, my name is Tarantino. I make bloody and offensive movies, I’m warning you!” Dumb idea.

Amateur comic writers and comedians think they need to shock in order to surprise. Professional funny people surprise in order to shock.

Politically incorrect humor is funnier when you least expect it. The effect of a politically incorrect bit is usually more effective when the surprise comes as a shock, not when the shock comes as a surprise. An exception springs to mind: Dave Chapelle. Dave Chapelle is one of the few comedians who can wield the double-edged sword of shock like a samurai.

Politically incorrect humor is funnier when it’s clearly not explicitly promoting racism, misogyny, etc. There’s a scene in South Park in which a character says the N word. And soon after Mr. Marsh says the unfortunate word, everyone gasps in terror, because Matt and Trey Parker give their characters a clean enough conscience to know that it was not OK. But not one episode of even the most politically incorrect cartoon in television history has a character portraying racism in a positive light.

So, when Nickelodeon removes an episode of SpongeBob from all streaming services because of this scene…

…but permits this kind of unfunny, cringe garbage…

…I can’t help but wonder exactly what people mean by “changing demographics.” I’m told that politically incorrect humor has no place in kids shows (or anywhere) because of “changing demographics.” I guess today kids are becoming more kind and welcoming and empathetic to social problems. But for some godforsaken reason kids can see Squidward’s toenail ripped off. Well, there’s your changing demographics: at least the kids aren’t being exposed to a night of debauchery! So rip as many toenails off as you want! Keep those demographics in flux! I see no change in these demographics. It’s the same stupid violence we had in the 90s with Ren and Stimpy.

I’m an adult, so why do I care so much about some dumb kid’s show? I care because cartoons are a cultural glue for young people. Cartoons create a shared language of memes and memories and clips we watch 20 years later and laugh as hard as we did the first time. And when today’s kids are 20 years old, none of them are going to say, “remember when Squidward’s toenail got ripped off? lololo” Their cultural glue will be more like a cultural porridge.

Keep politically incorrect humor in kid’s shows. Politically incorrect humor teaches kids that it’s OK to push the envelope once in awhile. That it’s OK to push people’s buttons so long as you do it gracefully, and that it’s much better to dip a toe into absurdity instead of ripping the toe off completely.

Whoever approved of that horrible toenail scene, I have 2 words for you.

Do better.

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